Police Blotter: Mexican national sentenced to federal prison for trafficking meth on the Navajo Nation
Luis Rangel Arce, 45, a Mexican national unlawfully in the U.S., was sentenced in federal court in Albuquerque, to 87 months in prison for his methamphetamine trafficking conviction.
Arce will be deported after he completes his prison sentence.
Arce and his co-defendants Miguel Rangel Arce, 36, and Rogelio Santiago Quiroa-Valdez, also Mexican nationals, were amongst eight San Juan County residents charged with federal narcotics trafficking offenses as the result of a multi-agency investigation led by Homeland Security Investigations and the Region II Narcotics Task Force into methamphetamine trafficking on the Navajo reservation in northwestern New Mexico. The three men were arrested in May 2016 during a law enforcement operation that included the execution of two search warrants at residences in Shiprock and Kirtland.
The investigation leading to the federal charges was initiated in response to an increase in methamphetamine trafficking on the reservation in the Shiprock area, and was designated as part of the Organized Crime Drug Enforcement Task Force program. The program combines the resources and unique expertise of federal agencies, along with their local counterparts, in a coordinated effort to disrupt and dismantle major drug trafficking organizations. The investigation identified eight defendants, who were charged in five indictments, through a series of methamphetamine purchases by undercover law enforcement officers. Law enforcement authorities seized more than two and a half pounds of methamphetamine, ten firearms, approximately $1,600 in cash, and a vehicle during the investigation.
Arce, Miguel Rangel Arce, and Quiroa-Valdez were charged with methamphetamine trafficking charges in a seven-count indictment filed in April 2016. The indictment charged the three men with participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy between November 2015 and March 2016, and with distributing methamphetamine on six occasions between January 2016 and March 2016. According to the indictment, the defendants committed the crimes in San Juan County.
Arce pled guilty on Aug. 16, 2016, to distributing methamphetamine on Jan. 11 and 14, 2016. In entering the guilty plea, Luis Rangel Arce admitted distributing 63.17 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer on Jan. 11, 2016, and distributing 55.3 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer on Jan. 14, 2016.
On Aug. 30, 2016, Arce pled guilty to participating in a methamphetamine trafficking conspiracy, and admitted that from Nov. 24, 2015 through March 17, 2016, he conspired to distribute between 500 grams and 1.5 kilograms of methamphetamine to an undercover officer. At sentencing, Miguel Rangel Arce faces a statutory minimum penalty of ten years and a maximum of life in prison.
Quiroa-Valdez also pled guilty on Aug. 30 for distributing 85.5 grams of methamphetamine to an undercover officer. At sentencing, Quiroa-Valdez faces a statutory minimum penalty of five years and a maximum of 40 years in prison.
Miguel Rangel Arce and Quiroa-Valdez remain in custody pending sentencing hearings, which have yet to be scheduled. They will be deported after completing their prison sentences.
The other five defendants were charged with methamphetamine trafficking charges in four other indictments. One has pled guilty and was sentenced on Sept. 27. Three have entered guilty pleas and are awaiting sentencing. The other two defendants have entered not guilty pleas and are awaiting trial. Charges in indictments are merely accusations and defendants are presumed innocent unless convicted in a court of law.
These cases were investigated by HSI’s Albuquerque office and the HIDTA Region II Narcotics Task Force with assistance from the Farmington office of the FBI, U.S. Marshals Service, and BIA’s Division of Drug Enforcement, Shiprock office of the Navajo Nation Division of Public Safety, New Mexico State Police, San Juan County Sheriff’s Office, Farmington Police Department, and New Mexico National Guard. Assistant U.S. Attorney Elaine Y. Ramirez is prosecuting the cases.